Home > Expert: Introducing teenagers to drink at home is bad idea.

[Irish Examiner] , Shanahan, Catherine Expert: Introducing teenagers to drink at home is bad idea. (21 Dec 2012)

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Parents who introduce their teenage children to drink in the home, in an effort to foster responsible use of alcohol, are not doing them any favours in the long run, an expert in the field says.
Dr Bobby Smyth, who is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, said his experience was that children who grow up in a permissive environment, where drink is permitted at home, tend to drift towards greater use of alcohol.

“By the time parents realise this, it is hard to put the genie back in the bottle,” Dr Smyth said.

While parents’ intentions were well meant — based on the belief introducing their children to alcohol in a supervised environment gave them a greater degree of control — in fact the message it sent out was: “I’m now old enough to drink,” Dr Smyth said.

“It’s not the glass of pinot grigio with mum. It’s the message they take away from it. Most of their drinking will be done outside of that controlled environment with their mates,” he said.

Studies done in Australia and the US, which looked at the outcomes for teenagers given drink in supervised settings, compared to those who were not given alcohol, showed there was a higher percentage of alcohol-related harm in the first group, Dr Smyth said.

This included a higher level of accidents and injuries, more involvement in fights, and higher levels of self harm and unplanned sexual activity.

Dr Smyth said while some Mediterranean cultures did introduce their children to drink in the home, the same approach was unworkable in Ireland because of the vastly different attitude to alcohol.

“The Mediterranean cultures are vastly more intolerant of excess drinking and drunkenness. It is not acceptable to get drunk in Italy or Greece regardless of age. The problem with Celtic Anglo-Saxon cultures is that you are almost expected to get drunk. There is a tolerance of unhealthy drinking,” Dr Smyth said.


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